Aaron Berhane is the recipient of the 2019 PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-in-Exile Scholarship.
The scholarship provides peer mentorship to one member of PEN Canada's Writers-in-Exile program each year.
An award-winning Eritrean-born journalist and publisher, Berhane was co-founder and editor-in-chief of Setit, Eritrea’s first and largest independent newspaper, until September 2001 when it was shut down during a government crackdown on press freedom. Berhane lived in hiding for more than three months before escaping to Sudan and finding political asylum in Canada.
During his mentorship, Berhane will work on a memoir with support from three-time Giller Award nominee and School for Writers professor David Bezmozgis. “I always wanted to write a book of the birth and death of the first newspaper in Eritrea,” says Berhane. “But because of lack of time and mentorship, I have postponed it for a long time. Now, the PEN/Humber scholarship is changing that.”
"Canadians don't know nearly enough about what independent-minded journalists faced in Eritrea, and I hope that Aaron's story will find its way into print and illuminate and inspire Canadian readers,” says Bezmozgis. “Helping writers like Aaron tell their stories is what the partnership between PEN Canada and the Humber School for Writers is all about."
Established in 2017, the PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-in-Exile Scholarship provides a full scholarship to attend the Humber School for Writers’ graduate certificate program in creative writing. Over 30 weeks, the selected writer will work one-on-one with one of Humber's faculty mentors on a book-length English-language manuscript of fiction or non-fiction. Previous scholarship recipients include Ava Homa (2017) and Onder Deligoz (2018).